SEMANA, January 13, 2020

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Retired General Miguel Maza Márquez and the former Congressman lost their final legal battle. The ruling that found them guilty of the crime against Luis Carlos Galán will not be touched.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace, in a final decision, denied retired General Miguel Maza Márquez and former Congressman Alberto Santofimio Botero their petition requesting revision of the prison sentence against them. The Supreme Court of Justice found them guilty of the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento, perpetrated in 1989. The retired officer and the politician requested that the file be re-opened and even that the JEP order them released on parole. All of that was denied.

Actually, the Appellate Section of the JEP affirmed the ruling made by the Branch for Definition of Legal Situations in August of last year, denying the petitions of Maza and Santofimio. They appealed and have now received the final decision.

The key holding of the JEP is that the case is “res judicata” and that the murder of Galán is not connected to the armed conflict but rather, as pointed out in the original sentence, was perpetrated for reasons related to drug trafficking. The head of the New Liberalism party was executed at the order of Pablo Escobar Gaviria, the bloody capo and chieftain of the Medellín Cartel, which considered Galán to be an obstacle to the growth of their empire; an empire that was sheltered by impunity.

That being the case, the Jurisdiction for Peace concluded that it had no jurisdiction to consider the petition by Maza and Santofimio, because the crime against Galán was not connected to the armed conflict.

However, with respect to General Maza, who has also been found guilty of connections to paramilitary groups, the JEP ruled that the file must be returned to the Branch for Definition of Legal Situations so that it may determine whether there is jurisdiction on those facts. That is because the actions proved in support of his conviction of the crime of criminal conspiracy (connections to paramilitary groups) would have a direct connection to the armed conflict.

“The Section found that there would be a connection with the conflict, considering the crime of criminal conspiracy in relation to the paramilitary groups in Magdalena Medio,” pointed out Justice Eduardo Cifuentes, President of the Appellate Section.

The Decisions of the Ordinary Justice System

In November 2007 a Specialized Judge sentenced former Minister Alberto Santofimio to 24 years in prison for the murder of Luis Carlos Galán. A year later, the Administrative Tribunal in Cundinamarca reversed his conviction. But later, in 2011, in a final decision, the Supreme Court of Justice reversed that decision and reinstated the prison sentence. It was clear to the highest court that the crime took place because of an alliance between the drug mafia and the political leaders who were opposed to extradition.

“Actually, the spirit of Alberto Rafael Santofimio Botero was filled with feelings of hatred toward Luis Carlos Galán, who not only hindered his chance to be President of the Republic, but who had also made sure everybody knew about his criminal connections, and that would have a definite and negative effect on his political career,” explained the Court in its decision. Santofimio spent more than 12 years behind bars, and in 2017 he obtained the benefit of continuing to serve his sentence in home detention.

General Maza, for his part, was sentenced in 2016 to 30 years in prison for the assassination of Galán. The Supreme Court of Justice found that the dozens of testimonies, documents and other materials were sufficient to support the conclusion that at the end of the ‘80’s the former Director of the DAS[1] had a powerful alliance with the military commander of the Self-Defense Forces (paramilitaries) of Magdalena Medio, Henry Pérez.

The Court’s decision points out that the connection between the paramilitaries and Maza was such that Maza’s agents took part in the trainings provided to the paramilitaries in the country by the Israeli mercenary Yair Klein. Much more than that, the Court stated that Maza not only knew of the “existence, presence, and activities of Yair Klein” in Colombia, but that the DAS collaborated with the mercenary’s entrance into the country and with his movements in different areas.

In addition, the Court noted that the principal financier of the paramilitaries of Henry Pérez was Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha – “El Mexicano” – a partner of Pablo Escobar in the Medellín cartel. The decision stressed that those two capos decided to kill Galán and used for that purpose the military structure of Henry Pérez and his alliances with government agencies. And that was where retired General Maza Márquez would come into the picture.

The Inspector General’s position was in opposition to General Maza’s petition to come under the umbrella of the JEP. The Inspector General urged the Justices of the JEP Branch for Definition of Legal Situations to declare that they had no jurisdiction to recognize his request for submission. In a document signed by the Inspector General, Fernando Carrillo, he argued that Maza’s petition for parole should be held to be inadmissible, and that the file should be returned to the ordinary justice system. He made specific reference to the trial judge to make very sure that the sentence of 30 years in prison for the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán is carried out.

“The historical and judicial reconstruction of the events points to an assassination that was intended to benefit the personal political aspirations of a presidential aspirant in one case, and to facilitate and eliminate obstacles to the continuation of drug trafficking activity in the other case. That is to say, this was the commission of a common crime with no small historical and political repercussions, but without any connection to the armed conflict whatsoever,” concluded the Inspector General.

In the case of ex-Senator Alberto Santofimio the Inspector General also opposed the petition. He argued that the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán had nothing to do with the armed conflict and that Santofimio only wanted to smooth his own path to political success and “eliminate obstacles to the continuation of the drug trafficking activity.”

The Legal Excellence Corporation, which supported the Inspector General’s argument, made a similar statement. It stated that the JEP cannot be the place where the crimes of Pablo Escobar and his partners are washed away. Besides asking the JEP to reject as inadmissible “this irregular and extemporaneous petition by Maza Márquez,” it requested that it do the same with the petition of Alberto Santofimio Botero.

[1] Administrative Department of Security (DAS). It was found to be functioning illegally and was dissolved in 2011.

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